German city dissolves elite police unit over far-right chats
The German state of Hesse on Thursday said it was dissolving Frankfurt’s elite police force after several officers were accused of participating in far-right online chats and swapping neo-Nazi symbols.
The “unacceptable conduct” of some members of the SEK special deployment commando made the dissolution of the team “inevitable”, said Hesse state interior minister Peter Beuth.
An expert committee will oversee a complete restructuring of the unit, he added.
It comes a day after prosecutors in the western city of Frankfurt said they were investigating 20 police officers, including elite commandos, over extremist material shared in chat groups.
Seventeen of the accused are suspected of distributing content which incites racial hatred, or of sharing neo-Nazi images.
Three officers stand accused of obstruction of justice because, as superiors, they allegedly failed to stop or sanction the chats.
The probe was launched in April, authorities said. Most of the offending content was exchanged in 2016-17, with the most recent from 2019.
The accused are all male and range in age from 29 to 54. Nineteen are active police officers and one retired.
The probe began with allegations against a 38-year-old SEK officer in Frankfurt accused of sharing illicit content including child pornography.
A search of his mobile phone uncovered some of the racist chats in question.
The case is only the latest example of alleged extremism in the ranks of the German police.
Last September, officers in the most populous state of North Rhine-Westphalia swooped on colleagues accused of spreading what prosecutors called “repulsive” far-right propaganda in WhatsApp groups.
Last July, prosecutors announced the arrest of a former police officer and his wife suspected of having sent threatening emails to politicians and other public figures across Germany.
The anonymous messages were all signed “NSU 2.0”, a reference to a German neo-Nazi cell that committed a string of racist murders in the 2000s.
Also last year, Germany’s defence minister ordered the partial dissolution of the elite KSK commando force over right-wing extremism.